Government funding to Councils is reducing and despite reductions in the last years EHDC has been able to maintain all of the services. We also announced a plan to generate enough investment to be able to offset the need for the government grant within a 5 year period, and then within a further 5 years to reduce our share of the council tax bill to Zero.
Like all Councils we have some cash funds – but we are also able to borrow money at exceptionally low rates to further our plans. With interest rates at a record low we are currently expanding our property portfolio.
Since announcing the strategy in 2013, EHDC has bought five properties: Barclays Bank in Petersfield; the Co-Op in Four Marks; the services on the A3 at Liphook; Sheridan House in Winchester; and this week, New Barn in Petersfield.
These sought-after and secure tenancies generate around £759,000 in rent every year, around £650,000 more than could be gained through interest on cash savings and of course the property value increases with time. This in itself is more than 10% of our council tax income so we are well on the way.
EHDC’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Richard Millard, said: “With government grants dwindling every year councils must find other ways to keep the money coming in to sustain quality public services. We are determined to maintain our services to a high standard and keep council tax low. To do that we must make the most of our resources. These days, property investment brings better returns than cash and it’s clear our strategy to focus on high-quality, commercially attractive properties is paying off.”
New Barn is a modern office premises on Petersfield’s Bedford Road industrial park, currently occupied by the car finance experts Moneybarn.